In February of this year Maryland and Washington took legislative action regarding same-sex marriage. Both of those legislative actions were delayed pending the November election but are now finalized due to the results of those elections. In addition, Maine also had a same-sex marriage initiative on its ballot. Similar to New York and Illinois, there is still uncertainty regarding the tax implications. We’ll watch for more guidance, but wanted to give you a summary of the state actions in case they may impact your benefit plans:
The referendum passed a new act that was not previously passed by legislature to allow same-sex marriages. While the vote is not yet certified, the Secretary of State’s office confirmed the act will be effective 30 days after certification of the ballots, but no later than January 5, 2013.
The act provides that “gender-specific terms relating to the marital relationship or familial relationships must be construed to be gender-neutral for all purposes throughout the law…” This phrase is usually the authority for changes in state tax law, but we are still waiting for that guidance.
As originally enacted, the act will allow same-sex marriages effective January 1, 2013. Again, the implications for state tax law are still unknown, particularly since there is no “gender-neutral” provision in this act.
The Washington referendum passed Senate Bill 6239. The act would allow both same-sex marriages and continue to allow, if one party is at least age 62, registered domestic partnerships. There will be certain default rules regarding existing relationships deemed to be a marriage. The Senate Bill was originally supposed to be effective on June 7, 2012. However, the effective date is generally delayed until December 6, 2012. There are also some provisions, regarding registered domestic partnerships, that are effective on June 30, 2014.
Similar to Maine, and many other states, the act provides gender-neutral language for both same-sex marriages and registered domestic partnerships. However, we are still waiting for guidance as to the impact on state tax law.
If you offer domestic partner or same-sex spouse benefits, you should review your documentation for potential updates. Once we have more information about the tax impact and the effective date of Maine’s act, we will update our blog.